Seven probable cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in the U.K. have been discovered in Pauingassi First Nation in northern Manitoba, according to a news release from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs issued on Saturday evening.
Several COVID-19 samples from Pauingassi were screened at the Cadham Provincial Lab, which identified the presence of markers that may be of the B117 coronavirus variant of concern.
These samples have been sent to the National Microbiology Lab for genomic sequencing which will confirm whether they are positive cases of the variant.
“This is clearly a very serious situation that continues to evolve and change. We are working closely with our counterparts to ensure reliable and swift information sharing for our citizens and will continue to work diligently to ensure that we protect our citizens at this time,” said Chief Roddy Owens in a news release.
Dr. Marcia Anderson with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs’ pandemic response team says the people have been self-isolating since their initial diagnosis and have also been told about the possible variant presence.
“Aggressive public health actions targeted at identifying any further contacts to these cases and ensuring they are tested and are isolating according to public health requirements will help contain the spread of this possible variant of concern,” she said in the release.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and ensure the safety of all First Nation citizens and work with all First Nations as [the] situation evolves.”
Last weekend, 18 members of the Canadian Armed Forces arrived in the community to assist with a worrisome spike in COVID-19 cases affecting about a quarter of the people at the time.
Owens said that Saturday they would be there for two weeks to help monitor critical infrastructure, deliver food and supplies and do wellness checks.
CBC News has reached out to the Canadian Armed Forces for an update on the mission.
Pauingassi First Nation is a fly-in community of about 500 people, which is about 280 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.